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Netflix made quite a splash over the holiday break with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, reintroducing the masses to the timeworn concept of choosing one’s own adventure in a new, decidedly 21st-century way. While the dark, fragmented Bandersnatch has divided critics, putting CYOA storytelling back on the map while telling only a middling story, the standalone Black Mirror installment has certainly accomplished what would appear to be Netflix’s foremost goal nowadays: It got people talking. Now, as Bandersnatch’s novelty wears off, talk is turning to—what else?—the next season of Charlie Brooker’s chilling sci-fi-thriller series, coming sometime in 2019. That means it’s high time we compile everything we know about Black Mirror 5.0 so far.
Netflix first nabbed streaming rights to Black Mirror—the first two seasons of which aired on the U.K.’s Channel 4—in December 2014, ordering 12 new episodes (i.e. two new seasons) of the disturbing sci-fi anthology series the following September. Black Mirror season three debuted on Netflix on Oct. 21, 2016, heralding the show’s worldwide breakthrough—season three standout “San Junipero” would earn Black Mirror its first two Emmy Awards—and building ample anticipation for the show’s fourth season, which hit Netflix just over one year ago on Dec. 29, 2017.
Season four, which we at Paste found to be a mixed bag, scored a respectable 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, just one step down from season three’s 85 percent. Perhaps more importantly, the new season further contributed to the series’ pop-cultural ubiquity, much to Netflix’s virtually certain delight. Asked by Metro.co.uk upon season four’s launch whether Black Mirror would return for a fifth season, creator and writer Brooker and his fellow executive producer Annabel Jones said only, “We would love to do it. We’re focusing on series four at the moment.”
Sure enough, the streamer ordered another season of Black Mirror in early March of 2018, declaring via social media, “The future will be brighter than ever.” The announcement was accompanied by a brief teaser featuring footage from various past episodes of the show.
Here’s where we hit a firewall, though: Netflix’s announcement revealed no season five premiere date, nor episode count, and now, nearly a year later, that data still has yet to surface. However, based on previous comments made by Brooker and Jones, we can at least make an educated guess about the new season’s episode count.
Asked by THR in September 2017 whether they would stick to the show’s six-episode model, the pair said:
Brooker: It’s a good number.
Jones: It puts us just on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, so it’s working! I think even a number seven would just do us in.
Brooker: There’s always a point in the middle of the production where we’ll have four or five of them live at any given point and I’ll be writing a script for the next one while doing rewrites on the previous one. There’s a point in which you go, “I can’t keep all these six stories in my head.”
Jones: But we do.
Brooker: But if it was seven, would our brains pop?
That doesn’t sound like a creative team itching to expand their episode slate, so the smart money’s on another half-dozen episodes of gazing deep into Brooker and co.’s Black Mirror.
Netflix, as noted above, has remained mum on the new season, focusing instead on Bandersnatch. Not until Dec. 27, 2018, the day before Bandersnatch’s launch, did the streamer share the cryptic first trailer for their mysterious “Black Mirror event,” which was not confirmed as the show’s rumored interactive episode until Dec. 28, when Netflix pulled back the curtain on the many ins and outs of their interactive Black Mirror film. Notching a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (to go with a 76 percent audience score), the forking paths of Bandersnatch haven’t exactly blown the viewing public away, but it’s most certainly whetted their collective appetite for more Black Mirror.
We are in the deepest dark about Black Mirror’s new season in terms of its actual content. From plot lines and a production timeline to episode titles and cast and crew, it’s mostly one big question mark—mostly.
Speaking at London’s Royal Television Society Awards shortly after Black Mirror was renewed in March, Brooker confirmed that production on the new season was underway: “Season five, we are filming one [episode] at the moment,” he said, per Radio Times. “We are about to start filming another one imminently. I’m writing the next one and then it gets a bit more foggy.”
Brooker offered nothing by way of plot details at that event, but he and Jones have spoken previously about what viewers can expect from the new season’s stories. In the aforementioned 2017 THR interview, when asked if the overwhelmingly positive reception of “San Junipero” and its relatively happy ending would influence future narrative decisions, the two said:
Brooker: Yes and no. Certainly, I would say that because it was a departure in tone—the fact that it had an upbeat ending was a way of me resetting what I thought the scripts were—and the fact that that worked definitely had some bearing on where my head is at, script-wise. Looking at the world, it’s hard to know quite how to react because the situation keeps changing every 15 minutes and you don’t know what mindset people are going to be in come when we release the season. So it’s had some bearing. We decide the order of episodes after we finish shooting. When something like that lands really well—and people love or hate all the episodes—but since that one resonated so much, you don’t want to hit the same bell again, even though it’s tempting. We have to be unpredictable with the show. We’re kind of back to doing more different things again.
Jones: The more episodes that we do, the more we challenge our perception of the show as well and what we’re likely to do. I think that was an, as you say, experiment in whether we can keep that sensibility and have an upbeat ending, so it sort of increases the scope.
Brooker: That was the thing. It’s making sure that every story is idiosyncratic and has its own flavor, but that it still feels like it’s got some Black Mirror DNA, somewhere. That is quite a challenge sometimes and can make it a bit tricky. But that’s part of the fun of the show, is that we blow up the world, basically, at the end of each one.
Judging by those comments, it would appear that talk of a “San Junipero” sequel is just that—talk. And since Brooker’s original comments on such an episode suggested only that Black Mirror would return to the fan-favorite story in the form of an “experience,” or via Easter eggs hidden in other stories, it would appear that Bandersnatch precludes both: The interactive film is certainly an “experience,” and is absolutely littered with Easter eggs referencing previous Black Mirror installments, including at least one callback to “San Junipero.” (As one Redditor points out, the Bandersnatch/“San Junipero” connection may very well flow both ways: During a scene set in an arcade, Billy Griffin Jr.’s character Davis points out to Mackenzie Davis’ Yorkie that one particular title, 1986 action-platformer Bubble Bobble, was “the first game” to feature alternate endings.)
Beyond that, the only insight we have into Black Mirror’s new season comes courtesy of none other than Miley Cyrus. The musician and actor, appearing on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show in mid-December 2018 (via THR), revealed she had been filming a secretive project in Cape Town, South Africa. “If you guess it, then I will shake my head ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’” Cyrus told Stern of the production, after which the host revealed to his audience that Cyrus had confirmed it was Black Mirror—Cyrus nervously pointed out that she hadn’t actually said the series’ name, since she hadn’t been told she could officially speak about her guest-starring role, but she didn’t deny it outright. (Netflix, Brooker and Jones have all since declined to comment on Cyrus’ casting, per THR—when asked about it during a discussion of Bandersnatch, Brooker cheekily replied, “Did you not get to that ending?”)
Cyrus went on to tell Stern that, though she “hates everything” she does as an actor, her work on Black Mirror stood out: “I hate everything, but it was the first time I’ve left somewhere feeling really proud of my work,” she said. Cyrus also spoke to her role, if only to say that she plays a dynamic character with a “lot of different sides” and “a lot of dimension,” and addressed the destruction of her home in the California wildfires and how it affected her performance, revealing a tiny bit more about her episode in the process:
There’s a lot of dimension to it, and actually it was while the devastation of Malibu was happening, and it was a really weird learning experience for me because I was so far from home and the show is already really dark, and it’s already kind of eerie when you’re there the whole time. But I learned a lot about myself, and I think I was able to use that and put that into it.
“Really dark” and “eerie,” eh? Sounds like Black Mirror alright.
Speaking of “eerie,” Brooker and Jones offered an update on Black Mirror season five on Jan. 2, just as this very article was being written. The show’s executive producers explained that, due to the massive undertaking the creation of Bandersnatch turned out to be, Black Mirror’s next season has been delayed.
“We knew going into it that it would be difficult and challenging and more complicated than a normal film that we would do. Even then, we underestimated,” Brooker told THR. “As the story expanded, I like to say that the story got longer and it got wider. So the whole thing started expanding a bit like an inflatable life raft in a small room.”
Brooker went on to explain that, while he and his team had expected Bandersnatch to require twice the work of an average Black Mirror episode, it proved to be more like four times the work. “A lot of that is because literally the tools that we needed to create it didn’t exist at the start, so we were learning as we went,” he noted.
Jones said of the delay:
There’s so much content [in Bandersnatch] and not reflected in the content is the craftsmanship, and what you have to take out to make the world exist—or feel as if it does exist in one cohesive world. So it did take an enormous amount of time and as a result, then season five sort of gets shifted back a little bit. But this is such a huge, interesting new opportunity for Netflix that we’re a part of. And there is so much fun to be had with it. That’s one thing that I hope people take away from it: I hope that you just enjoy the experience.
THR’s latest report does confirm that Brooker and Jones are currently at work on season five, revealing that Bandersnatch actually came out of a story-idea meeting for the new episodes, and that the production team worked on both simultaneously. “We knew going into it that [Bandersnatch] would impact our time, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing other films,” said Brooker. He offered no specific plot details for season five, naturally, except to say that he’s considered the possibility of Will Poulter’s Bandersnatch character, bad-boy ‘80s game designer Colin Ritman, appearing in future stories as a sort of “trans-dimensional character”—Ritman “could show up anywhere,” Brooker teased, adding, I could see him popping up in ‘San Junipero’ or running around in ‘White Bear.’”
Prior to today’s update, BuzzFeed TV Editor Scott Bryan had confirmed in late December 2018 that Black Mirror season five “is still to come in 2019,” helping to quell fears that Bandersnatch had supplanted a proper new season entirely, but that was as specific as Bryan could be about the show’s return date, for reasons that are now crystal-clear.
For the record, Netflix left Black Mirror off its slate of incoming January titles, though with a show like this, a by-the-book rollout is never a given. Though it’s extremely unlikely, we wouldn’t put it past the Black Mirror team to seed uncertainty and then drop a new season out of nowhere—they love a good twist, after all.
Today’s update notwithstanding, we have to assume Netflix is itching to capitalize on Bandersnatch’s buzz while also letting the one-off interactive episode resonate in its own right, meaning we can expect Black Mirror’s new season sometime in early 2019 at the very earliest. We’ll ping you as soon as we know more.
Keep an eye on your nearest black mirror for more on Black Mirror 5.0.